VG2020: the fiftieths raise the tone

They were whispering. Here they are giving voice again. It is not yet a real howl, but a reminder to the sailors of the Vendée Globe to tell them: “you are still here, in the Deep South”. 2000 miles from Cape Horn, the subtropical depression that replaced the gigantic Pacific high pressure area restored the Fiftieths to their reputation for hostile latitudes.

There is wind, sea, it is cold, the weakly canvas boats and the warmly dressed sailors are rattling around.

After nearly 10 days of soporific waltz with the high pressures, the loners had almost forgotten that they were in hostile territory and must get used to these conditions more typical of the southern seas. “It’s amazing the magnitude of the contrast from one day to the next” admits Boris Herrmann (7th) in a video sent on Monday morning. “I almost forgot how it was yesterday. And you really have to be strong in your head because every day you are thrown into something new. There is this constant anxiety of having to constantly tune the boat. Getting out of a nap to change the sails, again and again. Better not to think about it too much, but I can say that I feel mentally tired ”admitted the German sailor with a sad smile.

Isabelle Joschke (5th), bundled up under multiple layers of clothing, also spoke of this sudden change: “Last night it was really hot. I even got seasick so I was not used to it anymore!” And to admit a heavy physical fatigue which prevents him from returning the good canvas.

Same echo with Benjamin Dutreux (10th) whose imperative is to regain strength after an ascent in the mast to lower his J2 torn in two, a climb in the rough sea which transformed him into a rag doll dangerously tossed between the ‘spar, and its headsail. He comes out bruised and groggy, exhausted from this big blow of stress.

Bestaven gives himself a mattress for his 48 years

On December 28, at the helm of the race, Yannick Bestaven could have been delighted to blow out his 48 candles. But the skipper of Maître CoQ has no heart for the party either. In the red light of his cockpit (it was night for him when he was contacted by video for the Vendée Live show), the Rochelais was shaken like a plum tree and his tired eyes betrayed his desire: “I can’t wait to get out of the South Seas, ”he confesses.

Ahead of the depression that formed around the famous Nemo point – the place on the planet furthest from any land surface – Yannick is in the hard, downwind, of course, but with 40 knots of wind north-west and a sea in front. His position guarantees him to keep his throne – a seat he has occupied for 12 days – and to increase his mattress ahead of runner-up Charlie Dalin, who is slowed down in the middle of the depression. But at this point in the course, everyone wants to get to Cape Horn in one piece first. So we don’t boast.

From near or far, this low pressures system affects the first 14 boats, all of which are sailing in sustained winds, at speeds close to 20 knots. And we never stop marveling at the sight of such a compact pack after more than 15,000 miles of navigation. Only 387 miles separate the first from the 10th. By comparison, that gap was over 5,700 miles four years ago! However, the ranks could still tighten and the positions to yoyo as the troops progress towards Cape Horn (passage of the first expected on January 2) and towards a new depression!

Technical break planned for Le Diraison

The southern fan is also on for the rest of the monohulls, which are making their way eastward in the disturbed train. It is even Arnaud Boissières (16th) who, at the longitude of New Zealand, holds the palm for the best progress in 24 hours (414 miles).

Behind, Stéphane Le Diraison (19th) put his race on hiatus. Her mainsail hook carriage is broken. He plans to take shelter downwind of Macquarie Island – as Louis Burton had done before him – in an attempt to repair. Time for Oceans is currently 150 miles northwest of this nature reserve towards which it is advancing at low speed, mainsail slumped on deck.

Finally, Alexia Barrier (25th) took out the champagne in the early morning (French time) to celebrate her passage from Cape Leeuwin. Ari Huusela is next on the list.

Opening in Drake Passage

The playing field opens up on either side of Cape Horn! In conjunction with CLS (Collecte Localization Satellite), in charge of ice surveillance for the Vendée Globe, the Race Direction descended 9 of the 11 points in the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. This operation significantly widens – 180 miles instead of 85 – the authorized traffic corridor between Cape Horn and Antarctica, otherwise known as the Drake Passage. Same opening for the start of the ascent to the Falkland Islands with a margin of 100 additional miles.


Isabelle Joschke, MACSF

We went from the calm in which I was a little numb, to a good low with 30 knots established. It’s going fast, it’s wet, it’s all gray, it’s accelerating and slowing down … Last night it was really banging. I even got seasick so I wasn’t used to it anymore!

After my departure from Portugal, I never imagined such a return to the game. I was convinced that I would not be able to climb back up to the top 10. It is a real pleasure to play with my competitors who are very close, it is super motivating, it gives a boost!

Earlier, I had left for two maneuvers, dropped a gennak and planned to hoist another gennak. But I was so tired after putting the first gennak away, I just didn’t have the strength. I told myself that I was going to postpone it until later. And then I accept, I go on J2, that’s how it is. It made me feel weird, it’s not something you do in a race normally. My priority is to regain my strength. After that, I felt a lot lighter, I was less apprehensive of depression with the 30 knots hitting us on it.

I think there is basic fatigue. Yesterday I also had a really bad headache, maybe because it was beating, I don’t know.

Benjamin Dutreux, OMIA – Water Family

My J2 is torn in two, I climbed the mast to bring back the end of the sail. I got tossed around. We see that we are really little compared to the elements! I managed to bring the end of the sail back so that’s the main thing. Now there is nothing more to fix, but I also have a lot of other problems. It went on well, it hurt my morale. I’m trying to regain my strength. I have a good list of things to do, but I’m still heading for Cape Horn, that’s the main thing. I picked up a bit of speed, got back into the race. My North option was pretty good so it keeps me in touch. If the conditions allow me to repair my sails without too much trouble, so much the better. I’ll see how it goes!

Conditions have hardened. The advantage is that in the next few days we don’t need the J2 too much, we mostly have downwind. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed to get to Cape Horn without having to use this sail too much.

I have 25 knots of average wind with slaps at 30 knots. We couldn’t go very fast because the sea was head-on, it was quite a “boat wreck”. I was able to speed up a bit last night, the seas are starting to show the right way.

Going up the mast is a stressful place. Physically, it’s still pretty tough in these sea conditions. I did the puppet and got crushed against the mast and the sails. I have a good bruise on my thigh, I have a bit of trouble walking, it’s a bit restrictive, but it will pass. If I can get some rest and take the time to get things done, I should be fine.

Sébastien Destremeau, merci

I’m still getting closer to Tasmania to stop in the Bay of Hope to repair, where I left off four years ago. I have already booked the rooms, the restaurants, the barbecue … the party!

For now, the sea is still rough and the weather is drizzling: I only have 15-18 knots of wind left. And I’m still on the right path: I have to jibe in a few hours to avoid a high pressure bubble coming towards me. But I will not go too South, because my boat “box” a little: it only works on two cylinders … I should completely redo a pilot as soon as I am at anchor: I should take between ten and twelve days to reach the Tasmania, given the light weather ahead of me.

But what matters is to get at anchor and tackle the 48 hours of work that I have programmed: I have to repair my broken boom, redo my autopilot which no longer works very well, retake a Halyard at the top of the mast … I am counting on my lucky star and on this bay of Hope, which had brought me luck, to set off again as best as possible in order to make my second half of the round the world, without asking the foot on the ground. I found some missing parts while “cannibalizing” other parts of the boat – it should be nickel! You just have to strip Paul to dress Jacques… I have a regular relationship with my brothers, in particular to solve this problem with the rudder angle sensor so that the pilot works well.

Rankings at 3pm French Time

1. Yannick Bestaven, Maître CoQ IV, 8967.43 milles from finish
2. Charlie Dalin, Apivia, 133.32 milles from leader
3. Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut, 284.7 milles from leader
4. Damien Seguin, Groupe APICIL, 315.72 milles from leader
5. Jean Le Cam, Yes We Cam!, 360.03 milles from leader

Photo Credit : Y. Bestaven

Tags on NauticNews : Vendée GlobeVG2020

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